PUNTA GORDA, Fla.- A Charlotte County Sheriff's road deputy arrested a Miami man for transporting stolen cooking oil from a Punta Gorda Publix this morning. Gabriel Arnelio Torres, 25, of 20355 SW 122 Avenue in Miami, was arrested and charged with Unlawful Conveyance of Fuel in a Non-Commercial Motor Vehicle.
The deputy saw a white van with its rear tag light out and also noticed a dark liquid dripping out the back doors; a traffic stop was made in the Circle-K parking lot, 3035 Tamiami Trail, south of Punta Gorda at 2:25 a.m.
As the deputy approached the stopped vehicle he could smell a foul stench coming from the van and brown liquid leaking out. Torees gave the deputy permission to search the van who said he works for a company called Oil for Less. He could not provide any paperwork for oil collection. Inside the van were two large containers that held many gallons of cooking oil. Torees and his passenger David Garcia denied being anywhere locally collecting the oil and said they were transporting it by contract from Orlando to Miami.
A Punta Gorda Police officer arrived and said he’d seen this same white van with a large mirror on the top left rear that was behind Publix. The PGPD officer said he saw a long line of oil that the van had leaked while in the parking lot of Publix.
A further check of the van located a log of restaurants and other businesses where they took used cooking oil from Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties. Publix said they would press charges which will be filed by PGPD as the stolen cooking oil was in its jurisdiction. The used cooking oil is utilized to make other fuels and is sold to other contracted companies and Oil for Less is not one of the contracted companies for Publix.
At this time, only Torres has been arrested for transporting the cooking oil/fuel in a non-commercial vehicle. Torres remains in the Charlotte County Jail on a $2,500 bond.